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Tag: Google

Making money using Twitter

 

I continue my discussion on ways to make money using Twitter. Previously I covered what I considered are bad (ineffective) methods, now I’ll cover the rest.

 
The ugly (misleading):

Promoting users/lists: Certain users with a large number of followers (though only slightly more than I have) started doing personal shoutouts and including users in their lists for small sums of money. I assume the people who buy these services do so to get followers. To a limited degree, this will probably work. Moreover, if the people who promote these offers have multiple accounts as many people do, I would imagine all their accounts would suddenly follow the paying users (this could easily be 20-50 accounts – to some this is a lot of followers!).

 
With that being said, this has to be one of the most inefficient ways of getting followers. If these were celebrities who offered these services, fine (it would probably be pretty effective being in Conan O’Brien’s list! Just think of @LovelyButton), but we’re not talking celebrities here. I would never consider charging people to be in one of my lists because I think doing so would imply that this bestows some value, and let’s face it, it does not. Note that I have to say, it’s very easy getting followers, at least when talking about a small number (100-200) and I don’t think paying users expect more than that from a single tweet.

 
An additional issue is that I would expect this practice to stop at some point. Personally – and I know many others feel the same way – I treat the shoutouts as noise/spam. These are (personal) ads after all, and my comment from the previous post applies – most Twitter users do not like any tweet that feels commercial in nature. I predict that eventually enough users would have these ‘offending’ advertisers be blocked & reported for spam and this will lead to their suspension.

 
The Good (effective)

 
I’ve written about this in multiple separate posts. I believe that Twitter’s strength lies in creating relationships, networking, doing PR for yourself/your company, so most of this section deals with these. However, the first method is unrelated.

  1. Advertising: Using companies such as Ad.ly and SponsoredTweets it is possible to tweet something and get paid for it. This actually does work. But: (a) You’re dependent on being offered to tweet these and there aren’t a ton of those and (b) unless you have a lot of followers, the sums involved tend to be pretty low.

     

  2. Getting clients: by being active on Twitter, it is possible to get clients. Although pushing yourself and being interactive helps, by just having a good bio, descriptive background and including a link to your website it’s quite possible to draw attention. Personally I’ve had success with this. I have to emphasize that I believe this strongly depends on the industry: i.e. I doubt dentists can gain clients this way.

     

  3. Building relationships: I’ve written about this before. By networking you are likely to meet like-minded people who, by knowing them, in the long run, will result in monetary gain. I’ve met quite a lot of people who got me involved in conferences (i.e. Social Media 201), started collaborations, and introduced other people and clients to me. This does require effort though.

     

  4. PR: I’m probably the millionth person to say this, but in this day and age, companies need to be able to engage their clients. By having an active Twitter account that listens to complaints/issues and addresses them, a company can greatly improve their reputation. This is a topic that we discussed quite heavily at Social Media 201.

     

  5. Twitter services: basically, by offering the previous methods to other people or companies, you can make money. There’s in fact a new course that trains people to become social media managers.

    This is definitely a way that works. Again, talking from personal experience here. You can get paid far more doing this than from paid tweets or trying to push affiliate links. I believe this is the most effective way to monetize Twitter. Note that in many ways the method I included under ‘ugly’ can be said to fall under this category – true – however, I think it’s the choice of which services to offer that makes the difference. Implying someone will get a lot of followers if someone tweets your bio is misleading.

 
Not sure

 
I’ll include this one last category as well.

  1. Niche accounts: I’ve actually dabbled with this but it’s a variation of the methods I previously mentioned. Basically, it’s an account that declares in advance that it will provide information and deals. This can be done using affiliate links or point to your business site.

    Does it work? Maybe. Personally I’ve not tried it long enough to be able to tell. However, I CAN tell say that many users still consider this to be spam despite the user “announcing” in advance what it is all about.

     

  2. Trending topics: I included this but I will admit I don’t know it well enough to elaborate. The goal is to create accounts that tap into Google’s real time indexing of trending topics. I don’t fully know how this works, just that by doing so, it is possible to get an affiliate link into the top of the search of Google. I would imagine this involves creating quite a lot of users. I heard this worked for some but don’t know how successful it was and, as you can guess, I never tried it myself. I figured I should still mention it.

     

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I haven’t written about blogging for a while. Since I follow quite a few blogs every day, not to mention, monitor the activity of my own blogs, it’s interesting to see what works and what doesn’t work – sometimes it’s just plain obvious, other times I had to learn certain lessons the hard way. Here are six suggestions that may be useful to anyone who’s blogging.

 

  1. Avoid ads (at first, at least): when you just start a blog and even when it’s quite a bit more established, it’s best to avoid putting ads. First, you’re not going to make any serious amount of money: if you place AdSense code, you may get the occasional click which would probably amount to ~10 cents. However, you will cause – and this is particularly important at the beginning – your potential audience to reconsider visiting your blog.

     
    Here is a personal example: I have a niche site which provies book and movie reviews. When it first launched I got quite a few people very involved because it’s dealing with a specific topic that apparently many people find interesting. About a month after I launched it I added ads: this drove my two most loyal readers away – they never came back! I even wrote one emails and she never responded. After two months during which I made a whopping $4 I took the ads off. I think these people’s response was extreme but some people are turned off by ads or anything that can be viewed as trying to make money (if you’ve been on Twitter for a while, you know that people on Twitter – tweeps – are very hostile to ads). Note that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with placing ads – you spend time and effort, get a domain, a hosting account – why not get compensated, at least a bit, for your efforts?

     
    Another consideration is that a blog is a personal thing and ads take away from that intimacy. I think when you have an established audience, most (if not all) will understand it if you put ads, but at first it will turn people off.

     
    If and when you do place ads, it’s a good idea to put them in a place that doesn’t ruin the “visitor experience”. Some blogs are so crammed with ads it’s just a turn off even for me.

     

  2. Give your posts proper titles – the search engine perspective: Try to incorporate phrases that people search for in your titles. It’s not really hard to do, a quick visit to the Google keyword tool will show that. For example: Six Blogging Tips and Tricks (the title of this post).

     

  3. Give your posts proper titles – aim to go viral. If you can come up with a good catchy title it will certainly draw attention. And if it’s a good post, people will want to share it, retweet it and send it to their friends. My recent blog post “Gaining A Million Followers In Less Than 30 Days” – got the fastest numbers of visitors from the moment I tweeted a link to it from all of my other blog posts.

     

  4. Use video properly: using video is a great idea which is highly recommended. Search engines love it and people respond better to videos than to text – after all, it’s easier to listen than to read. However, videos can’t replace your blog post completely.

     
    There are blogs that only rely on a video to convey their message. No description of the content nor a meaningful title. Not only this is bad from an SEO perspective since there is no way for the search engines to figure what the post is all about, and so, index it properly, but this is also true for people too. Often I can’t turn on my speakers from various reasons and consequently, can’t listen to the video – so there are some blog posts I literally have no clue what they are about as much as I’d like to know.

     

  5. Use a correct permalink structure: meaning, the path to the post should not use Wordpress’ default structure (which looks something like this: www.domain.com/?p=1234. Instead, use /%category%/%postname%. This is good for three reasons.

     
    First, it helps with search engine optimization, as the path has a definite impact on SEO.

     
    Second, it helps humans know what the post is about if they just see the link. For example, even without reading this blog post, by looking at the link (which is: http://www.industryreview.org/search-engines/six-blogging-tips-and-tricks), people can get a pretty good idea what the post is about.

     
    Finally, it helps you when you check for rankings. One of my oldest sites – coincidentally, the one I mentioned in #1 – has multiple pages that rank well in Google (and Bing and Yahoo) for various phrases. However, I made the mistake of using the default permalink structure – so unless I manually check, I have no idea which pages rank! All I see is a www.domain.com/?p=1237.

     

  6. Beware of spammer comments: Although I’ve written a post about this before, some comments are really quite devious in the sense you may be tricked into approving them.

     
    Not only they may have hidden links – and this has happened to me – a space between two words had a link to some nasty site, and I couldn’t see it until I actually viewed the code. But additionally, even if they are harmless, and you approve them, they make your site look amateurish to anyone who has seen these comments a million times before.

     
    In other words: avoid any comment that sounds generic – like they could fit any post – particularly if they sound flattering, i.e. “Thank you for the great post”, “Can I use parts of your post in my own blog?”, “Darn, I left a comment but it didn’t work.. do you see it?”, “Your design is fantastic – can I ask where you got that theme from?” and that sort of thing. All these are similar to comments I get every single day.

 
That’s it for now. I hope this has been useful.

 

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Nostradamus: Only fools try to predict the future?

Nostradamus: Only fools try to predict the future?

 

From some reason I remember there is a saying “Only fools try to predict the future”. I can’t seem to find it so I might be mistaken.

 
Even though I completely disagree with the idea that it’s foolish to try and predict the future – many people and companies do it all the time – we have to remember it’s all based on what we know, on past events – and that things can change at any given moment.

 
Many financial companies – Lehman Brothers, for example – successfully predicted the future for many decades and made unimaginable sums of money. Until one day things – in this case, the economic market – changed dramatically and all their predictions turned sour. A company that existed since 1850 perished in a matter of weeks because it didn’t predict the future properly.

 
Yesterday I met with a very good friend of mine. He has a Twitter account but he’s not really active. However, he is very interested (and knowledgeable) in technology trends. He asked me: where do you see Twitter going?

 
That is a very good question. Where do I see Twitter going, I wondered to myself.

 
My guess, and of course, it’s just a guess – that Twitter will follow the same patterns that other companies faced in the past, particularly in the last few decades.

 
Here are two examples – I can give many more.

 
You might not have been online back then, but I still remember the times before Google existed. I was mainly using Altavista and Lycos and was very pleased with the results. When Google appeared, I didn’t see the point of switching. I also didn’t believe – and I remember saying it to a friend – any new company stands a chance in the search market. A few friends of mine mentioned Google is good, I figured I’ll give it a chance. The results seemed to be better though weren’t dramatically better. However, at some point I did find myself switching to Google – though that was mainly because of the simple interface.

 
Of course, Google reinvented the search engine landscape and deserves a lot of credit for that. However, I wasn’t the only one who guessed wrong: I bet Altavista and Lycos were taken by as much surprise as I was.

 
Similarly, when Friendster, the first modern social network, was created, I was one of the first people using it. That’s actually an understatement – I was extremely active because it was so new and really explored interesting territories. Many of the things we now take for granted were actually “discovered” by Friendster who had to find the right way through trial and error.

 
Numerous new social networks later emerged, but the one that deposed Friendster was MySpace. MySpace got so well established I thought “this is it!”. It seemed immovable, but then Facebook rose and completely and utterly took MySpace’s.. space. I still remember articles writing that “Facebook is not going to be successful, MySpace will reclaim its position”. Kind of funny when you think about it now.

 
Quick disclaimer: I’m not writing anything that hasn’t been written before. Someone comes, creates a product – it could be successful, even very successful – but then a successor creates an improvement that completely wins over the audience. Though I don’t remember anyone saying this about Twitter (even though probably someone did).

 
That’s my guess for Twitter.

 
Twitter is flawed. Technically it is awful. Years after its launch we still get the fail whale on a regular basis (I get it at least 5-10 times a day). It has numerous bugs. It has a lot of really silly features and flawed concepts: the retweet button, no search mechanism for bios, no way to mass delete DMs, no way to filter DMs… the list is endless. However, no one can deny twitter is extremely popular. Extremely.

 
Based on these factors: that Twitter is a very flawed application and that the space is extremely attractive, while looking at past trends, I find it hard to believe that at some point in the next 1-5 years a new microblogging service, one that has learned from all of Twitter’s mistakes and improved on it, won’t come and completely dominate this market. That is, unless Twitter will clean up their act completely… but in all fairness, I don’t see that happening.

 
This may seem impossible now, but that was the case in both the examples I gave.

 
Google tried to do this with Google Buzz – that didn’t go too well because of the privacy issues (just too eager, huh?).

 
My prediction is that there will be someone else. And they will be successful. And in a couple of years we will all be seeing articles analyzing how Twitter lost its market share, and “what went wrong?”.

 
Only fools try to predict the future. Perhaps that might be true, but this is my guess.

 

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As you all know, there are quite a lot of celebrities on Twitter and more are joining every day. I noticed that there are roughly three categories of celebrity following… and yet there seem to be inexplicable (?) exceptions.

 
Let me emphasize, this is not a scientific study, just my general impression. However, my brain usually works by classifying things. There are plenty of other examples in my blog…

 
On this note, I have to say, doesn’t Twitter have a name suggestion mechanism?! It took me quite a while to find some of these celebrities. Eventually I discovered that the easiest way is going to Google, typing the name, seeing the suggestion (which was always right) and using it. Come on, Twitter – can’t you do the same? I remember considering doing this for an eCommerce application I wrote 8 years ago, wasn’t supposed to be hard.

 
Celebrities are easy to recognize on Twitter. They either have the verified tag next to their name, a ridiculous follower/following ratio, or – quite often – by the fact they “broadcast” – it’s a one way interaction on their end.

 
First, there are the big celebrities. They don’t need to do anything and still get a large follower base almost overnight.

 
For example:

  • Britney Spears (5,016,111 followers) – she pushed aside the former king of Twitter and is the new reigning queen.
  • Lady Gaga (4,251,933 followers)
  • Conan O’Brien (1,021,242 followers) – didn’t he just recently join?
  • Jim Carrey (1,017,771 followers)

 
Second, there are the somewhat smaller celebrities who are still household names. Some of them used to be ‘bigger’ in the past but the canceling of their shows or the fact they haven’t been in a big movie recently in a leading role obviously affected their status. Their number of followers is actually reachable by “mere mortals” – I have more followers than most of those I include below.

  • Elizabeth Banks (Spiderman, W., Scrubs – 156,579 followers)
  • Alyson Hannigan (Buffy the Vampire Slayers, How I met Your Mother – 101,537 followers)
  • Jason Segel (How I met Your Mother – 52,941 followers)
  • Julie Benz (Dexter, Desperate Housewives – 44,182 followers)
  • Kelsey Grammer (Frasier, Cheers – 22,207 followers)

 
Finally, there are the “minor” celebrities, those who are known to some, but generally are not household names. These can also be of the previous category whose television shows have expired. I have secondary accounts that have more followers than these…

  • Diora Baird (The Wedding Crashers, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning – 14,066 Followers)
  • Shiri Appleby (Roswell, Life Unexpected, ER – 4,251 Followers)
  • Elisabeth Harnoi (Point Pleasant – 1,559 Followers)

 
Then again, there are some celebrities who ought to belong to the second or even third category yet still have a staggering number of followers.

 
For example:

  • Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Big Bang Theory, Stand By Me – 1,654,037 Followers)
  • LeVar Burton (Star Trek: The Next Generation – 1,601,451 Followers)
  • Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Independence Day – 1,366,661 Followers)

 
All three are known to Trek lovers, but I doubt they are household names. Moreover, considering their main show was canceled in – what, 1994? – isn’t this large number of followers very surprising – they far outrank more household names like Julie Benz. Heck, even Jim Carrey!

 
Why is that?

 
In my opinion, this is a result of these celebrities not only being active on Twitter, but also using it as a two-way communication medium. They all communicate with their followers: I didn’t say they speak to everyone but they do talk rather than “broadcast”.

 
I believe even Ashton Kutcher (4,986,024 Followers) – that despite the fact he’s already a pretty well known name, he is not of the caliber of Jim Carrey in terms of celebrity status, as well Demi Moore (2,732,687 followers) and Alyssa Milano (856,495 Followers). All are not only extremely active Twitter users, but also heavily interact with their followers.

 
More importantly, to all three this has brought significant Twitter attention. At least in Ashton’s case, I believe this has even translated into success in the real world, being known as the king of Twitter – the #1 most followed person (until last week).

 
So my advice? Use Twitter as it’s meant to be used. I know you’re busy. We all are. But use Twitter as a two-way communication medium, respond to followers, interact with them. People appreciate not being ignored and want to “touch the stars”. Give it to them. They will appreciate it and you will feel the effect.

 
I believe that a celebrity who has a very low number of followers is impacted, to some extent, by this – and the opposite is true as well.

 
Like it or not, Twitter is a measure of sorts of popularity. I would not be surprised if some casting agencies actually check Twitter before they cast an actor. I think it would be wise to do so.

 

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stupid phone


 
If I could do it easily, I would run a poll: “how many of you use a Smartphone vs. a traditional, old-style cell phone?”. I’m sure the vast majority would be using the former. Not that the readers of this blog represent, in my opinion, the phone user demographics properly, but that’s not my point.

 
Well, I’m not. The last time I switched phones was almost two years ago. Back then I intended to migrate to a Blackberry. But when I reached the store, it just seemed unnecessary. All I wanted was a phone with a big keyboard so that it would be easy to write emails and send text messages, which I got (the image above is the type of phone I’m using).

 
I would be lying if I said I regretted this decision. Though as time passed, I kept missing some features that others had. For example, I had no easy way of accessing my email or Twitter: I had to open a browser and type the URLs. I also had no way of uploading photos directly to email, Twitter, Facebook. Nor could I use applications like Foursquare – I’m not sure I would, but I’d definitely give these a try.

 
A few months ago I decided to upgrade: in 2008 all of my urgent emails were work based, so were answered at work. Now that I am self-employed, I really need to answer some emails when I’m away. I already do it if I really have to, but my phone really isn’t designed for this, so it’s not very convenient (purely in terms of interface). In addition, my phone has reached old age: it has an annoying habit of turning off in the middle of conversations – somehow, always when I’m trying to meet someone outdoors – or turn itself on in my pocket and dial random people (if one is reading this: my apologies!). It clearly needs to be retired (possibly even put down. It will be humane, I promise).

 
What are my choices?

 
iPhone: I know most people just looooove iPhones. I respect that. However, I have an iPod touch I’m not using at all. I can’t stand the touch screen interface, I don’t like the navigation interface… I just don’t like it. My iPod sits and gathers dust and I really need to just sell it.

 
Android: I decided I’m not getting one because it’s Google based. They already have too much information about me and the rest of the world, I’m not about to give them more. I imagine a scary scenario: it’s the year 2020 and Google can suspend/ban you from its applications if you go into certain areas: “You’ve been to MICROSOFT’s HEADQUARTERS? No GMAIL FOR YOU!”. Ask any affiliate marketer and they won’t deny that this is a plausible scenario (even if a bit exaggerated). We’ve seen Google at its worst (at least I hope that this is its worst).

 
Palm: I have heard good things about the palm, but when I saw it, it looked too similar to the iPhone for my taste.

 
Blackberry: that was my original choice. I know they are convenient for email management, they do hold the largest share of the Smartphone market, and I like the fact you don’t need to touch the screen on most of them.

 
So a quick summary of my goals:

  1. Get a phone experience that’s better than what I have.
  2. Be able to manage emails/Twitter/Facebook much better than I currently can.
  3. Be able to use apps – and I honestly care which app store, whether the Blackberry app store or Palm’s, etc.

 
Today I went to the store determined to make the transition. I left – pretty disappointed – without making one.

 
I played with all the phones. Most of the touch screen interfaces weren’t so inconvenient as I thought they’d be, so I decided to reconsider those. Some of the Androids had a physical keyboard, so I decided to risk the doomsday scenario I described (I deserve the criticism, I know) and include those as well.

 
Most seemed like good phones. But none, not even a single one, was as good for typing as my old style phone. Even the phones that included a keyboard were too small, or were designed in an inconvenient way.

 
People used to to tell me “Oh, you’ll get used to X’s way of entering text” (usually X was the iPhone). But no, I don’t want to! I don’t want to get used to a bad thing, I want to upgrade! When I switched to my current phone, typing immediately became pleasant and easy – I didn’t have to get “used to it”. Particularly now that I intend to use it for email much more, I don’t want to start hating my (new) phone! Not to mention, switching to a Smartphone increases one’s phone bill (though that’s not and never was the issue).

 
I’ll also state I have carpal tunnel syndrome (well, not exactly – something similar) – as a result of almost 30 years of typing – so typing on a small keyboard is always an unpleasant task for me.

 
I tried one after the other. They all sucked in this respect. I don’t get it: why can’t a single Smartphone manufacturer include in its device a keyboard that opens like mine? I’m not going to get a Smartphone just to be “cool” if it makes my life harder!

 
I started looking at the new models of my existing phone… these definitely improved in two years. But I didn’t feel I could make this decision, staying with a “stupid”, “moronic”, “clueless”, phone (i.e. not a Smartphone) without at least getting more information on the alternatives.

 
Therefore, I wrote this post.

 
Any ideas? I’m hoping someone would say that there is a mythical model, offered by company X, that does exactly what I want. And it’s either too expensive to be sold (I’ll pay the price!), or no one likes it so it’s almost free (even better). If I need to travel to China to get it, I’ll go there. If I need to sacrifice a small goat to the God of mobile phones, I’ll even do that. It is time to move forward. But really move forward.

 
Help?

 

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Resources for Affiliate Marketing

This Wednesday I’m giving a two hour introductory talk about affiliate marketing. This is following my plan to start doing more speaking engagements which I enjoy (as mentioned in my post about my talk at Social Media 201).

 
Preparing my Powerpoint deck was fun although it was somewhat time consuming. I also prepared a resource page for the audience.

 
I don’t know exactly the demographics of this blog’s visitors (clearly Alexa is untrustworthy, as I’ve joked about): I would estimate that at least a quarter are seasoned affiliate marketers, another quarter is friends, and the rest are people I meet through Twitter or people who Google for certain topics I’ve written about – Twitter Jail being the most popular (of course, it’s possible to be both a friend, an affiliate marketer, and know me from Twitter :) ).

 
Since I took the time to make this resource list, I figured, why not share it? If you’re an affiliate marketer, you can stop now because at least 95% are things you know, and know well (however, I AM sure most marketers aren’t familiar with the Mobile CPA Network I joined, for example). But if you’re not… proceed.

 
I think I will make more of these introductory posts, explaining resources for building links and other things new affiliate marketers require. But that’s for another time.

 

“Standard” Affiliate networks

These are networks dedicated to physical products or eBooks.
Clickbank Sign up page – eBooks, eCourses
ShareASale sign up page – physical products
Linkshare sign up page – physical products
Linkconnector sign up page – physical products
Commission Junction sign up page – physical products

 

CPA networks

Here are some of my favorite CPA networks: harder to get into than other networks, and normally require a brief phone interview before being approved.
Neverblue sign up page
Marketleverage sign up page
Azoogleads sign page
Clickbooth sign up page
Copeac sign up page

 

Mobile CPA networks

This is a CPA affiliate network dedicated to mobile offers. I am aware of two more such networks, but since I have not used them myself (yet), I’m not listing them.
Sponsormob sign up page

 

Offer directory

An excellent resource for finding offers and comparing commissions across networks.
Offervault

 

PPC: Keyword spying tools

If you’re doing any PPC at all, you really need a keyword spying tool. I used PPCBully 2.0 and thought it’s great.
PPCBully 2.0
Affportal – has a lot of useful tools for PPC campaigns

 

SEO/Blogging: Keyword research tools

If you’re creating search engine optimized niche sites you must do your keyword research.
Micro Niche Finder: superb tool, and even has a ‘brainstorming’ function which just finds good niches for you on its own.
Market Samurai: superb tool which just gets better.
Google Keyword Tool: a good place to start

 

SEO: Link building

eZArticleLink: If you need links, this is a good resource – there’s even a free version!

 

Pay Per View Networks

I included only some of the PPV networks I use.. since this is an introductory talk, I’m not sure I would recommend on PPV being the starting point. However, I didn’t want to leave this out.
DirectCPV
AdOn Network
MediaTraffic

 

Pay Per View Resources

If one does do PPV then Affportal is a must. An absolutely fantastic – and mandatory – resource for PPV which just gets better.
Affportal

 

Email marketing Resources

Here too I only mentioned the one tool I use. Yes, there are others, but this one is the best.
Aweber – best email marketing tool

 

Twitter resources

This is probably better phrased as ‘Twitter monetization resources’.
Ad.ly
SponsoredTweets

 

Media Buying resources

This is useful for anyone doing demographics research for the purpose of media buying. Most definitely not for new or even intermediate affiliates!
Alexa
Quantcast
Compete

 

Domain registration

I registered more than 60 domains with Namecheap and don’t have a single complaint. They’re also the cheapest. In fact, I’m going to register one, possibly two, domains right after I finish this blog post…
Namecheap

 

Domain hosting

Unlike domain registration, I’ve had my share of hosting accounts and was very unhappy with most. However, Hostgator is excellent: very good service, high reliability, quick and friend customer support. Definitely better than the other accounts I used. Even their pricing is competitive!
Hostgator

 

Facebook advertising resources

Since it’s hard to do split-testing with Facebook because there is no way for the average user to get a bulk upload tool, the Facebook Ad Manager is a must in order to do any serious Facebook advertising.
FB Ad Manager

 

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Alexa is not accurate

Click on the image to see the full stats

 

I’ve already written before that I doubt Alexa’s accuracy. But this is just comical. When I go to the Alexa stats for this blog, it gives me the demographics of my visitors. For crying out loud, where are they getting this information from? I have the Alexa toolbar installed as well and I don’t recall ever giving them any information, let alone specific details such as education.

 
So you can imagine my surprise when I found out that my blog is vastly popular with guys between ages 45 and 54, and quite shocked to discover no one over 55 reads my blog – and very few in the age group 18 to 24 as well. I’ll try harder, I promise.

 
Also, it seems the number one query for my blog is “chinese affiliate” (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click on the image above to see the full stats). This is very interesting. Yes, the phrase is mentioned once in this blog, but with all due respect to Alexa, I look at my stats every day (usually a few times), and “chinese affiliate” is not my #1 source of traffic, nor is it second, third, fourth or fifth.

 
Neither is “affiliate network”, which is probably a very competitive phrase. I think it would be quite cool if I did rank high in Google for “affiliate network” – I’d probably get tons of traffic. But that’s not the case.

 
This is comical, but it also raises serious questions. Recently I did a small media buy based on demographics I obtained from Alexa. How can I trust these results at all? I think the stats for my own blog are complete nonsense.

 

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SEO Traffic in 2000

I haven’t blogged in a while. Some people have asked me whether I decided to quit blogging. “Of course not” I responded “I’m just too busy”. Which is true (as I briefly elaborated in my last post).

 
The frustrating thing is that, as mentioned before, I already have three posts just waiting to be finalized and published. One of them I’m not going to do anymore. It describes my experiences at Affiliate Summit West (ASW10) and it would feel quite silly to publish it almost two months after the fact. So I won’t. I’ll just say: ASW was great!

 
Earlier today I was lying in bed and suddenly realized it’s been exactly ten years since I began my first job in the US (had others elsewhere. Curious? Check my LinkedIn profile).

 
In my first job I worked as a software developer for a dotcom called iAnalyst. This was before the dotcom bubble burst, so we were all reaching for the stars, ready to work crazy hours, and mentally preparing to become millionaires. The sad fact is, we kind of knew we won’t become millionaires, many of the crazy hours were spent starting at the PC and chatting – it was more of a “morale” thing, we all stay at work regardless of whether it’s actually necessary. So there were whole weekends I spent at the office doing nothing. With that being said, I don’t regret even a single second – it was a fantastic experience even when the company went down.

 
I had three projects in iAnalyst, with the most important one being the creation of the company’s production system. Basically, it allowed our producers to enter content, which would miraculously be transformed and transferred to our website. Sounds familiar? I bet it does: Wordpress does just that. More than that, Wordpress does it 1,000 times better than my creation did. Then again, we’re talking a full decade ago – that’s centuries from a technological perspective. Literally the stone age.

 
Why am I mentioning all this? I was lying in my bed and thinking why the company failed. It failed because we didn’t get almost any paid clients. This despite the fact the company got a massive amount of media attention: we were featured in many articles as “a hot new startup”, and our CEO was even interviewed on CNN – NOT the website – the television channel. Yes, we were on our way to greatness.

 
Prior to the CNN interview, we had a company bet: how many new people would register immediately afterwards. There was even a reward promised to the person who will be the closest. I remember increasing my bet to more than what I thought it would really be, for company morale. One of my colleagues was a financial analyst: he came up with a complicated calculation that derived a number. This was the lowest estimate, by far, of everyone. What happened was that he was the closest – the real figure was roughly half of what he projected. There was such a gloomy atmosphere after this he never got his reward. We just didn’t talk about this anymore.

 
So why did we not succeed? Basically, we just waited for people to register to our services, counting on the media attention and word of mouth. Considering I was a prominent member of the technical team (which consisted of only several people), I don’t remember a single conversation about advertising online, making ourselves available for people who search for certain terms. We didn’t even consider this. Yes, these were prehistoric times in terms of internet advertising and SEO, but it still existed back then in its primordial form.

 
We just sat and waited for the traffic to arrive, and it never did. Then we ran out of money. And then we shut down.

 
What we should’ve done is used paid advertising. As far as I know, PPC didn’t exist back then, but there were ways to pay per impression (I’ve heard many stories about the “good old times”, how easy it was back then to profit from advertising because there were no accurate measures or pay per click). I don’t know exactly how Google ranked sites back then (yes, even then Google was #1), but considering I was involved in generating the site, I don’t remember a single conversation about how we should optimize it to appear higher in search rankings. The whole concept never occurred to any of us.

 
I’m wondering what would’ve happened had we been able to optimize our online presence using all the knowledge we now have, even with the tools that existed in 2000. I’m sure we could’ve increased our traffic a hundredfold if not a thousandfold. We did have money. Whether this would’ve saved the company? Probably not, but I guess we’ll never know. There were talks of eTrade buying us (they didn’t) – it certainly could’ve made the difference in that case.

 
It doesn’t feel that long ago, yet in so many levels, it’s light years away.

 
Note that exactly one year later (2001) I was working as a lead developer/team lead for a small firm. That is when I was first introduced to SEO. We had a guy do a bunch of what I thought was pretty comical: he hid a lot of keywords in white text on our site’s main page so they would be invisible to everyone but the search engines, also put tons of links in tiny fonts. Of course, these are very rudimentary SEO tactics and now search engines will punish you if you use such tricks, but in 2001 this still worked.

 

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My Summary of 2009


 
Originally I intended to write a summary of “my 2009″. But after reevaluating this, I decided to make it shorter.. or better phrased, easier to digest. Just share some of the lessons I learned this year. I’m mixing both the personal and the professional here, though items are generally grouped together.

 
Overall, 2009 was a great year. There were some rough moments, both personal and professional, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.

 
In 2009 I learned:

  • That as suspected, having no boss and being self employed would result in (easily) more than twice the amount of hours that I worked when I had a boss. Even when considering investment banking (notorious for demanding a lot of hours).

     

  • That even though I am smart, an excellent planner and a hard worker… I sometimes lack focus. And focus matters more than I realized. This one was a very valuable lesson.

     

  • That working insane hours but having much more time to spend with your family is SOOOOOOO worth it.

     

  • That working after 4am can cause you the equivalent of a hangover. Since then I try (and often fail) not to do so.

     

  • That “Do No Evil” is just something that Google says, but nothing more than that.
  • .. and that things can change in a way you’d never expect: Who knew I would ever be rooting for Microsoft?

     

  • That twitter is not just about sharing “what I just ate” (admittedly, I used to think so too) but rather a wonderful, albeit addictive, medium for meeting friends and making business connections.
  • …yet sharing “what I just ate” occasionally results in the most fascinating discussions.

     

  • That Twitter includes the entire range of the human spectrum: the best, kindest and most wonderful people you’ll ever meet, and also some of the worst. And that “Block” is a wonderful option for the latter.

     

  • That Twitter allows one to find many people who need help but don’t know how to ask for it.
  • … but also that it’s wise to draw lines, otherwise you may get pulled in and (at times) blamed for some of their troubles. A lesson I learned the hard way.

     

  • That some celebrities are extremely friendly, and yet other people at times act like the worst celebrities regardless of the fact they’re no different than you and I (often less, actually).

     

  • That being a Twitter ex-con makes you tougher… kind of. Okay, it just makes you less talkative which may make you appear tougher (see my blog post on Twitter Jail).

     

  • That blogging about “professional subjects” leaves enough room for humor and self expression (until this year I’ve only had personal blogs).

     

  • That some spammers have a well honed sense of humor (see my two posts on spammers: spammers types, and spammers jokes).

     

  • That a good affiliate manager is worth his/her weight in gold (and if we’re talking about a really thin one, then platinum).

     

  • That sometimes you really need to listen to your instincts, but other times you really need to ignore them. Both professionally (in this case, talking CPA offers/Landing pages/Ad copy), and personally.

     

  • That due to the secretive nature of affiliate marketing, the good ideas usually stay with you, while the bad ideas get rehashed, repackaged, and resold.
  • …and I wish I could say more about the former…

     

  • That PPV is just awesome.
  • … but other times it’s not fun watching your entire budget evaporate in 20 minutes without any positive results.

     

  • That the most successful people – at least in affiliate marketing – are usually the most modest ones (or the most silent ones – sometimes it’s easy to confuse the two).

     

  • That it’s hard finding people who truly want to collaborate as a team. But when you do… it’s the best thing.

     

  • That quotes are a great way of saying what you want to say without saying it. And that sometimes this is very important (yes, being cryptic is part of the point here ;-) )

     

  • That some friends don’t even give the tiniest of warnings before they decide this world is not for them. Kaya, I wish I got to know you better before you left us. I hope you are at peace, wherever you are. (I intended for this to be the last item, but I don’t want the last one to be sad… and the next one relates in a way Kaya would have found amusing, I think).

     

  • That being deprived of cupcakes is extremely dangerous (more about that in future posts).

     

  • That I can survive on my own cooking (who knew?).

     

  • That having a character named after you in a book is, like, the coolest gift ever.

 
Can you believe it’s already 2010? I feel it was just 2000 maybe 2 years ago… how did a whole decade pass so quickly? Personally, I think 2010 is going to be fantastic – I just know it.

 
Happy new year everyone!

 

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Cheap Traffic sources

Originally I told this story as an amusing anecdote to friend, but last week, following a conversation, I realized this could actually be helpful to my readers.

 
A few months ago I was promoting a lot of auto insurance offers. Now, these usually have a good payout, but in terms of PPC are extremely competitive and consequently, very expensive. It is really hard to make a profit, but I was managing. However, I was constantly on the lookout for quality – yet cheap – traffic sources.

 
At the time I was just starting to explore Media Buys. I heard of an network that offers this service (hint: its name starts with “Ad..”) ;) ), however, when I actually went to register, I got confused and registered to another network that does the same thing, but isn’t nearly as good. But I didn’t know this at the time. The names were just very similar.

 
The site required that I give them, I think, about $25, and showed me many sites divided according to niches with traffic statistics. The idea was that you can select a site, and place a banner/ad for a specified amount of time for a price. I picked five sites, and placed an ad to my auto-insurance offer. All seemed like very appropriate sites and nothing looked out of the ordinary. I paid $1 for each, and the ad was supposed to run for a single day on every one of those sites.

 
The next day I got the statistics:

  1. Two of the websites didn’t send me even a single visitor. Clearly the site’s statistics were simply fraudulent (I think each claimed 7,000 unique visitors a day or something like that)
  2. Two of the websites sent me two visitors, none converted. Again, fraudulent statistics.
  3. One site sent me a pretty good number of visitors – I think around 50. Normally I’d have to pay quite a lot to get 50 clicks using PPC for Auto Insurance offers! In Google Adwords this would literally cost me hundreds of dollars! The odd thing was that none of them converted, and I was very familiar with this offer – it normally converted very, very well.

 
The strange thing is that that one site kept sending me traffic the next day. I didn’t pay an additional dollar, but it still sent me traffic. Awesome, I thought. Again, the numbers were not bad at all, but 0 conversions. After two days this was starting to look suspicious. I examined the IPs and they were all very different – so I didn’t think it’s the same guy clicking my ad again and again.

 
The next day my ad was still running. I have no idea what the guy was thinking, but I didn’t mind. Again, decent traffic, zero conversions. Ok, now I started getting really suspicious. I sent him an email requesting that the ad be redirected to one of my own sites. I assumed he’d probably cancel the ad (reminder: I paid $1 for a single day! That’s it!) but this was simply too suspicious to continue. To my surprise, he agreed. No further charges.

 
The next day I started getting the same traffic to my site and then I discovered what was going on. All the traffic was coming from Asia. 95% from China and some from Singapore and Vietnam. Well, that explains why I got zero conversions – the offer was for US traffic only.

 
The thing is I really couldn’t guess this is what I’d get from the site – it looked perfectly American to me. And nowhere did the network or the site imply it may be a target for Asian visitors mainly (it just wasn’t mentioned anywhere, and I, naively, didn’t suspect anything – I still believed I’m using a good network at the time).

 
At this point I thought: well, the traffic is coming from whatever reason, I don’t mind. Maybe they’ll buy something? Maybe they’ll see something they like in the ads? Who cares, free traffic.

 
And the traffic kept coming… there were zero conversions but I definitely got some ad revenue which immediately made up for the $1 original cost.

 
This lasted for about 1-2 weeks until one day, some visitor went and clicked on all the ads on my site. 19. I heard Google likes banning AdSense accounts for exactly this type of suspicious activity, so decided not to risk it. I went to their site, there was an option “report suspicious activity”, I sent: “I don’t know who, someone clicked on all my ads, this is not me, feel free to take the income back, I don’t want it, kind, benevolent, great Google!” (well, I didn’t phrase it exactly like that, but that was the general spirit of my letter).

 
I got no response from Google – which is typical, maybe 10% of the emails I sent them got a response, and even those were usually automated, and neither was my account banned, so I figured – good, end of story.

 
However, I noticed something peculiar – that my ad revenue from all my sites significantly dropped. It was then I discovered what ’smart pricing’ means. It means that for 1 to 4 weeks, your entire AdSense account (and you are not allowed to have more than one) will get about a tenth of its revenue because Google suspects your traffic sources. Highly unfair – why should it affect my other sites!?

 
This was starting to become a problem. I didn’t want to just ask the person to remove the ad (free traffic, still), so I sent him an email asking him to redirect the traffic to another one of my sites (my book site), one which doesn’t have any ads. I figured, at least there the visitors can’t do any damage. If they buy something, great, if they don’t – I don’t mind. Clearly this traffic is not stopping any time soon.

 
This continued for a few more weeks (again, I remind you: I paid $1 for all this!). And then during a lunch with a friend he gave me an idea I can’t say is anything less than genius. “Why don’t you join a Chinese affiliate network?”. What a smart idea. Absolutely brilliant!

 
I started looking for some, and indeed found a couple. Several were all in Chinese, so I just couldn’t join them (even though I did guess what the various boxes represent), but one was not. So I joined (they were a bit baffled and interviewed me why I would want to do so). After being accepted, I applied to everything which I saw. Of course, half rejected me (why would a jewelry advertiser want to advertise on a book site?) but a surprising number approved me.

 
I started putting a few banners in Chinese in one page in my site, which must’ve looked pretty odd to my usual visitors, but noticed that the visitors almost never visit that page. The problem was that I didn’t want to overdo it because really it was making my site look odd. It’s a niche site, so I knew people would still visit it because of the content, but I didn’t to go to far… even with a just few banners my site was looking too weird for my taste.

 
So then I thought of a really good idea. I put all these banners on one page and made it hidden, so you could only access it using a direct link. Then I sent yet another email to the site owner and asked him to direct his traffic to that specific page. Perfect, no? Best of both worlds: it doesn’t affect my site, and I get good traffic to the one specific page.

 
After two days the traffic stopped. I think the person realized what I was doing and decided he’s not going to give me free traffic anymore. I must’ve received about 2 months of traffic for that $1 I paid. I decided I’m not renewing this ad anymore (he’ll probably charge me daily now). And that’s where things are left. Still have a hidden page filled with banners in Chinese.

 
I think this is an amusing story. First, because why would I get so much traffic for so little? Second, because clearly the traffic was not what I thought it would be. Later the auto insurance offer was canceled because someone was sending it “problematic traffic”, I quickly contacted my affiliate manager and inquired – this wasn’t me, my traffic was a drop in the bucket of the traffic they got, and I only sent it for 3 days. However, just the thought that I could have endangered my relationship with that network unwittingly wasn’t something I found pleasant.

 
Let this be a lesson to you all ;) Since then I’ve learned much on gauging the quality of traffic and am significantly more careful. But just thinking about this makes me laugh about this weird scenario and how naive I was back then with regards to Media Buys.

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